Making sense of patriarchy and religion in India

no picture Women, Temples, India
Swetha Reddy
Member since January 3, 2019
  • 1 Post

Free source: Wikimedia Commons

Where reason reigns, misery often prevails. But take someone to their place of worship, and they will spread joy all around.

Free source: Wikimedia Commons Where reason reigns, misery often prevails. But take someone to their place of worship, and they will spread joy all around.

At a peaceful dawn, on January 2nd, 2019, two middle aged women entered the Sabarimala temple in the state of Kerala in India. What followed was a gruesome political, patriarchal, religious and consequential quarrel - basically, an earthquake. So why exactly would a simple act of two women walking a few yards in a temple to pray to a deity cause an EARTHQUAKE?

Apparently, the deity, Lord Ayyappa, has ordered his devotees to disallow women of menstrual age from entering his holy shrine. A 'purification' rite was carried out by the priests at the temple after it was confirmed that the two women who entered the temple had worshiped the god.

A centuries-old law was broken by the Supreme Court in September 2018, allowing women to worship this god. Since then, many men with their chauvinism and women with their beliefs of inferiority have challenged the law with strong resistance, protecting their deity from 'contamination'. The entire country has been shaking - people trying to create more divisions, trying to blame institutions and all trying to forcefully assert, not prove, what they think is right. This conflict has put so much at stake that I wouldn't mind if women abandoned their mission to pray in the temple. After all, do you really want to offer worship to the god who doesn't want you to? I offer my fairly childish solution later.

Another deity in the Hindu religion is Lord Vishnu. He lies down on a multi-headed snake, one hand supporting his head, and a bunch of other hands dealing with the world. At his feet lies the goddess Lakshmi, who very prettily and obediently presses his legs. Forcing myself to disregard politeness or etiquette, I say, why on earth would you want to worship a god who doesn't really treat everyone equally, but swear your allegiance to your motherland India, whose Constitution asks you to respect people of all walks of life? I have been instructed, forced even, to 'whole-heartedly' worship Hindu Gods, all my life. I don't really understand surrendering myself to someone who doesn't treat me equally. I have been asked whether I am pure or not before helping my grand mom make food for God. I have been warned not to eat that food even when my little mouth watered or when I was extremely hungry. From where I have adopted a different mindset among such conservative upbringing I do not know, but I know I stand for rationality and compassion. Stereotypes of female reproductive processes pose problems that create the basis for many higher level forms of discrimination and harassment. Fighting to bring change to this system is one of the most difficult tasks that anyone can tackle.

Many scholars believe that religion and mythological stories were created at a time when people had to be united by beliefs that separated them from reality and took them to places where they could let go of all humanly feelings and gain peace. Today, the damage that using religion for discrimination and their clashes has created just the opposite of peace. It is becoming evident from today's major global problems that humanity has worked without keeping the future in mind. I agree that 'spirituality', or what Indian schools like to call it, helps men and women connect with themselves, in a realm too novel and fantastic to feel negatively. It gives you a different kind of break. Now, coming to my immature solution to those who want one with an open heart: I say, being an atheist is a lot more difficult than being faithful (to god). I sometimes imagine the easy life I would have had if I never questioned my religion and got along with the hypocrisy. I'd probably be a lot more successful, avoiding hours of confusion, frustration and contradiction. Yet I chose to go with reason and equality. However, faithfulness gives me salvation when things go too wrong. As much as I disapprove serious interpretation of mythological stories, I make myself believe in the God, who I, as an individual, see as divine, who doesn’t create hierarchies or intent inducing images. Even though many of my friends think it is stupid, I cannot help but create this small hole of escaping rationality to connect with myself.

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